This week's question: Can I use pepper spray to control someone else's pet after a warning to the owner?

Can I use pepper spray to control someone else's pet after a warning to the owner?

(A Lake Oswego police officer or firefighter answers readers' questions each week in this space. To submit a question, call Editor Gary M. Stein at 503-636-1281 ext. 102 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

PHILLIPSWhile there are no Lake Oswego city ordinances that allow the use of pepper spray, neither are there any ordinances that prohibit its use.

It is generally accepted that pepper spray cannot be used to "control" someone else's dog, or even your own dog. If the dog is approaching you and your dog in a friendly or playful manner, you cannot use pepper spray. You cannot use pepper spray just because the dog is off leash or the dog's approach is "unwelcomed."

Pepper spray can be used to protect yourself or your dog from being attacked. Should you use it? You will have to make that final decision. But please, before Lake Oswego becomes engulfed in pepper spray, consider some of the following:

-- You are punishing the dog for something its owners are guilty of (not keeping it on a leash, not socializing it, not training it to respect boundaries);

-- You can be sued in civil court for injuries incurred because of your actions, even if those actions are legal;

-- You can actually be putting yourself and dog in additional danger. If the pepper spray does not incapacitate or deter the dog, you may now have an aggressive dog who is even more aggressive because it is angry and its eyes hurt. It may also make it more difficult for the owner to take control of the dog if it is blinded and lashing out at anything nearby, or if the owner can't get near their dog because of the pepper spray in the air;

-- You can end up pepper spraying yourself or your dog if you are not mindful of the wind direction, or if in the excitement and urgency of the situation you end up pointing the can in your own direction; and

-- You may now also have a dog owner who is angry that you have pepper-sprayed his dog.

If you are still determined to use pepper spray to thwart aggressive dogs, I would suggest getting a brand that is made and labelled specifically for dogs. This may help you in any litigation where you are accused of using too powerful a spray. Dog's noses are much more sensitive to smells and irritants than human noses. I don't want to recommend any specific brands, but there are some that make sprays to be effective against dogs.

Remember, even if you act legally and suffer no criminal liability, you can still be held civilly liable. Just because you can legally do something does not necessarily mean you should. You will be responsible for your decision.

If you have a specific request or see a violation occur, the Lake Oswego Police Department encourages all citizens to contact the non-emergency line at 503-635-0238 and an officer will be dispatched as soon as available.

— CSO Dan Phillips

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